guitar string corrosion - any experts out there?

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guitar string corrosion - any experts out there?

Post by heavenorlasvegas »

I know there are alot of varying theories out there...

but how does corrosion develop as it relates to steel and nickel wound strings?

There are many different "types" of corroded strings. Those that have turned sticky and almost have a sandpaper like feel to them, strings that have went black, and strings that are simply blotched red with rust.

what kind of conditions, for example would cause a string to turn black as opposed to developing a sandpaper like feel?
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Re: guitar string corrosion - any experts out there?

Post by zenguitar »

Is this about a problem you experience and hope to resolve?

Or is this purely an academic question?

In over 45 years of playing I have never experienced corrosion of strings. And in over 30 years as a trained luthier and very experienced tech I struggle to recall clients who had a problem with string corrosion.

I did have one client who had a problem with strings going off within days of being fitted. His acoustic guitar had a brace that had come unglued and was a simple repair.

For the vast majority of guitarists, it's not a problem. For the small minority that do have a problem, they just buy coated strings, Maxima gold plated strings, or just bulk buy standard strings and change them more often.

And as for all those 'varying' theories you imply....

Almost all can be disregarded because they are ill informed opinion from people who are unqualified to comment.

Andy :beamup:
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Re: guitar string corrosion - any experts out there?

Post by resistorman »

From personal and anecdotal experience, I've known people that have unusually acidic sweat whose very touch started strings corroding, though I don't remember what color the corrosion took. Also, I lived on a small tropical island where everything corroded. I rotted two bridges off my 66 Jazz bass playing downtown Key West for decades. Since I moved to the mountains of North Carolina, corrosion doesn't even budge the trouble meter.
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Re: guitar string corrosion - any experts out there?

Post by Bob Bickerton »

Reminds me of a phone call I had from an acquaintance a few years back. He asked if he should change his guitar strings. I asked when did he last change them and he replied 1969.

I said probably.

Bob
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Re: guitar string corrosion - any experts out there?

Post by Wonks »

Plain steel strings will rust over time. The higher the relative humidity of the air, the faster they’ll rust.

Wound strings will pick up dirt, grease and bits of dead skin in the wraps, probably the primary reason why strings get duller as they age.

But the big variants in string corrosion are the player’s skin/sweat acidity and air pollution. Some people’s fingers have a near neutral pH and their strings can last ages. Others are so acidic that I’ve seen an almost new set of strings go black in places and feel rough with an hour of playing. That’s quite unusual, but you do get some people like that (Dan Boland, you know who you are).

The more built-up your environment, the more pollution there is in the air. Sweat and grease from your fingers will start attacking the strings as you play, but it generally does take quite some time. The act of playing will rub off some of the surface corrosion, so most generally happens after you stop playing. You then get a mixture of finger acid, pollutants such as NOx and SOx (from car exhausts) mixing with moisture in the air, and plain old damp conditions, that can eat away at the strings over time.

Far too many combinations to state what conditions will give exactly what type of corrosion you’ll see on a string. There are various types of iron oxide and different starting conditions will give different end results.

Washing your hands before playing and wiping the strings down after playing should give the longest string life for uncoated strings, but the same make of strings may last a week for one player and several months for another.

So really it’s the standard SOS forum answer; “It depends”.
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Re: guitar string corrosion - any experts out there?

Post by Wonks »

Bob Bickerton wrote: Thu Jul 21, 2022 3:56 am Reminds me of a phone call I had from an acquaintance a few years back. He asked if he should change his guitar strings. I asked when did he last change them and he replied 1969.

I said probably.

Bob


:D
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Re: guitar string corrosion - any experts out there?

Post by BigRedX »

The only time I have witnessed corrosion on guitar or bass strings, were ones that were VERY old, or on instruments that had been played by someone with acidic sweat. I used to be in a band someone like this and he would change his strings every week, and ideally he should have changed them after every gig or rehearsal but he couldn't afford that.
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Re: guitar string corrosion - any experts out there?

Post by Dow Fereday »

Hi
not an experty but....living near the sea gets my strings rusting...
keep hands clean and wipe down strings after use, put in case with silica
wd40 may extend the life....
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Re: guitar string corrosion - any experts out there?

Post by Scouser »

I can't see the value in knowing more about this, but that's just me.

Having played guitar for 45 years, many of those professionally, in my own experience it is moisture and grime, oils and salt, transferred from hands/fingers to the strings. Obviously we are all different and how much we sweat etc varies from person to person. I would suggest using uncoated strings as a first step and just keeping them clean as possible, however they should be changed way before they become as you describe.
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Re: guitar string corrosion - any experts out there?

Post by Dan Bo »

Wonks wrote: Thu Jul 21, 2022 6:19 am Plain steel strings will rust over time. The higher the relative humidity of the air, the faster they’ll rust.

Wound strings will pick up dirt, grease and bits of dead skin in the wraps, probably the primary reason why strings get duller as they age.

But the big variants in string corrosion are the player’s skin/sweat acidity and air pollution. Some people’s fingers have a near neutral pH and their strings can last ages. Others are so acidic that I’ve seen an almost new set of strings go black in places and feel rough with an hour of playing. That’s quite unusual, but you do get some people like that (Dan Boland, you know who you are).

Yeah, my hands eat strings. Wonks lets me touch his guitars but Max just flat out bans me from touching any of his (unless the strings need to be changed by his standards). It literally takes me minutes to ruin a set of strings, so I have to have a different standard as to what is acceptable. I also don't really like coated strings so its a case of changing them more often for me.

My case is extremely acidic sweat and sweaty hands and its always been the case. On my 18th birthday my parents bought me a silver signet ring, it turned black after a few weeks and after about a month the band had corroded enough that it snapped. My wedding ring is Palladium so it suffer the same fate.

Its getting a little better with age and living in a cooler country but I've just learnt to deal with.
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Re: guitar string corrosion - any experts out there?

Post by Wonks »

Dan Bo wrote: Sat Aug 13, 2022 9:56 am Yeah, my hands eat strings. Wonks lets me touch his guitars but Max just flat out bans me from touching any of his (unless the strings need to be changed by his standards). It literally takes me minutes to ruin a set of strings, so I have to have a different standard as to what is acceptable. I also don't really like coated strings so its a case of changing them more often for me.

My case is extremely acidic sweat and sweaty hands and its always been the case. On my 18th birthday my parents bought me a silver signet ring, it turned black after a few weeks and after about a month the band had corroded enough that it snapped. My wedding ring is Palladium so it suffer the same fate.

Its getting a little better with age and living in a cooler country but I've just learnt to deal with.

But you are very useful if anyone needs any hardware reliced!
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Re: guitar string corrosion - any experts out there?

Post by blinddrew »

Wonks wrote: Sat Aug 13, 2022 10:11 am But you are very useful if anyone needs any hardware reliced!

I generally prefer my hardware louse-free. ;)
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